Face Mask = Car Insurance

Face Mask = Car Insurance350I’m back from our short road trip to central Oregon. We had a great trip and spent most of our time outdoors. The only time we spent indoors was at our small hotel/B&B. Unfortunately, the owner was lax about the face mask. He didn’t wear his mask consistently and didn’t enforce Oregon’s statewide mask mandate. None of the guests we saw wore a mask. That county only has 20 total cases so I guess people were complacent. Understandably, COVID doesn’t feel like a threat with so few cases. In contrast, our home county (Multnomah) has over 3,200 cases. We were vigilant and put our masks on whenever we interacted with other people indoors. Outside, we were a bit more lax. It’s a lot easier to keep our distance outdoors. Anyway, I want to talk a bit about the face mask today. Since this is a personal finance blog, I’ll try to connect face masks to finance.

Face Mask & Car Insurance

Here is what I came up with. Let’s think of the face mask like car insurance. Most of us who own vehicles pay for car insurance. We don’t like it, but we want to protect ourselves against catastrophic financial ruin.

Basically, there are 2 types of car insurance.

  1. Liability – This insurance covers the other party’s bodily injury and property damage. Most states require liability insurance.
  2. Personal (PIP, Collision, and Comprehensive) – This part covers your vehicle and injury.

We need auto insurance because an accident can easily bankrupt most households. Imagine crashing into a luxury car and several passengers get hurt. The repair and medical bills could easily exceed $100,000. Of course, nobody wants to have an accident. But we all need insurance just in case it happens.

*BTW, we almost had an accident on our road trip. I was driving down a 2-lane highway at 65 mph and 3 small deer were crossing the street. I braked hard and the middle one jumped out of the way. That enabled me to swerve between them and avoided a collision. That was so close! I was shaken up pretty badly.

We can think of the face mask in the same way. Nobody wants to get COVID. However, you never know when you’ll interact with someone who has it. Isn’t it better to have some insurance and reduce the chance of catching it? Also, many COVID carriers are asymptomatic. You might have COVID and not even realize it. I don’t want my friends and families to get it from me. A face mask helps protect yourself and other people from the coronavirus. Wearing a face mask is the easiest way to keep the number of new cases down so we can get back to normal, or as normal as possible. The longer this pandemic drags on, the worse it will get.


Honestly, I don’t get the controversy with the face mask. It is uncomfortable to wear, but that’s a small price to pay for staying healthy AND keeping people around you healthy.

Anyway, it seems some people object to wearing a face mask because they think it infringes on their individual rights. “I’m an American and nobody tells me what to do, especially doctors and scientists.” This is ridiculous. There is no such thing as unlimited freedom because with freedom comes responsibility. Everyone is doing something they don’t like for many reasons.

  • Wearing seat belts
  • Following traffic rules
  • Going to school for an education
  • Working to make money
  • Buying a car, a big house, and all kind of stuff to put in them
  • Eating healthy food and exercise
  • Etc…

You can’t just do everything you want. There are consequences. If you don’t wear your seat belt and ignore traffic laws, then you’ll get into a bad accident sooner or later. It’s the same with the face mask. If you value personal freedom above community health, then COVID-19 will continue to spread. Countries that followed the face mask mandate are doing a lot better than the US. Here, COVID-19 is still spreading out of control.

Here is a good article on how face masks prevent coronavirus from UCSF.

Wear a mask

Is being more comfortable worth worsening the pandemic? The personal freedom argument doesn’t work for me. If you really believe that argument, try doing everything you want with no limits for a few days. Pop a baggie of meths to make yourself happy, run some red lights, and tell the cops off. It won’t end well. (Disclaimer: This is just sarcasm. Don’t do this, obviously.)

Let’s wear a mask and get us back to normal as soon as possible. Oh, and drive carefully too. The roads are treacherous. Have a good summer!

If you have any questions about auto insurance check out this faq.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

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62 thoughts on “Face Mask = Car Insurance”

  1. Thanks for writing about this issue! I live in an area with a strict mask mandate, which people mostly obey, but I’ve still had to step outside my comfort zone to ask people to mask up properly in certain situations. I’m pregnant, so my doctor told me that if I’m somewhere where people aren’t all masked (which happens rarely, but sometimes circumstances require it) I can’t be squeamish about speaking up. Very uncomfortable for me as I generally have a “live and let live” attitude about most things, but I’m possibly at increased risk and definitely can’t risk passing this virus to my parents or grandparents.

  2. Welcome back! Thanks for tackling it head on. It’s absurd that people are making this about politics and freedom when it’s about health and common sense. If we all wore masks to protect each other, we wouldn’t have the death and long haul COVID sufferers in the vast numbers that we do. But some section of the population just insists on stubbornly name calling and pretending that a virus cares about how brave and foolish they can choose to be. It really doesn’t. If a virus could care about anything, it would applaud people making those choices that help it spread!

    And privatization is an equally absurd answer when it comes to public health. Hardly any company can be relied on to put public health ahead of personal profits, we have plenty of American history proving that: the triangle shirtwaist factory, the radium girls, the meatpacking industry that Upton Sinclair highlighted. Health regulations exist for a reason and they’re not supposed to be fun, they’re supposed to keep more of us alive and well.

    Looking at other countries, it’s pretty obvious this didn’t have to be so bad here.

  3. Hi Joe! I was born & raised in Portland, OR, and that’s one reason why I love reading your blog. I live in Germany now. It baffles us here how masks became politicised in the US. The freedom NOT to wear masks leads to… travel bans! My American family is not allowed into Europe now. A heavy price to pay for freedom.
    I know you are too cautious to be a ‘Leafblower Dad’, but I could picture you doing that.

  4. Why stop at masks Joe? Let’s tell everybody how to live their lives in every aspect of life! You’re once again going down that slippery slope. Let’s face it, there are many decisions in life that people make that directly affect other people in negative ways. Masks not being worn may certainly be one of them, but are you now going to lecture us on poor food choices, bad spending habits, poor driving, the amount of kids one should have, etc. All those things affect YOU as well!

    Your car insurance analogy is exactly correct. You took out insurance ( by wearing a mask) to protect yourself. But that is YOUR choice, that’s your freedom. You or I can look at other people and think, ‘those people make such selfish stupid decisions‘ (and trust me, I do) but it’s not our lives. I for one can’t stand it when people tell me what to do. Be careful what you wish for because with less freedom, eventually you’ll lose yours as well.

    For the record, I’ve barely gone out in public for over 4 months and when I have, I’ve worn a mask because that was the choice I made.

  5. I think what a lot of people don’t like (including me) is government dictates about mask wearing. Individuals and private companies need to make risk based assessments all the time about various things going on in their lives, and are better at making these decisions than government central planners. Government central planners show time and time again that they cannot calculate risk correctly or centrally plan how society should work. Decentralized decisions, down to individuals and individual private companies are much better at making decisions. Maybe some companies should require masks, gloves, and temperature checks to walk in their front door, and maybe their customers want this. Maybe other companies should only require masks for older people. Maybe some companies that have an outdoor area shouldn’t require masks at all as it is almost impossible to get the virus being outdoors and spaced out from other people. Those individual companies should decide. If their customers don’t like how the rules, they can shop elsewhere- that’s what freedom is about.

    • Ugh. The problem is that your mask protects others more than it protects you. A young and healthy person may not get seriously ill with Covid 19 but they can pass it along to someone else who get deathly ill because you won’t wear a mask.

      Refusing to wear a mask is sorta like ignoring stop signs if you drive a Hummer. You probably won’t die or get badly hurt in the resulting collision but what about the other guy? Freedom, right?

      • This is why I favor the privatization of basically everything in life. Private companies and individuals should make these decisions locally, based on local conditions and what is best for the situation, not government bureaucrats. When should the lockdowns end? When should mask wearing end? What % of occupancy should stores be allowed to have? How often should stores sanitize? What should the proper spacing requirement be for people standing in line? Why would a bureaucrat, without a science or medical background, who has to worry about appearing to ‘do something’ and ‘be tough’, while appeasing their various special interest groups who keep them elected, make the best decision on this? I understand that the bureaucrats who make these rules are informed by people who study the science, but as the politicians don’t think long term, do not understand economics, have to worry about getting elected again, and keeping their various rent seeking supporters happy, they don’t make the best decisions for the public. Decentralized decision making by individuals and private companies, wins the day.

        To take your example of stop signs, my reply would be something radical. Privatize roads, and then the individual road owners can decide where stop signs need to go, what the speed limit should be, what requirements would be needed for a drivers license, etc. Private owners would certainly do a better job at keeping the roads safe, while keeping roads in better conditions, with lower cost, than government roads.
        If you think that idea is crazy, here is a whole book on it, and you can read it online for free:

        • Decentralized decisions by individuals choosing to not wear masks (and thereby allowing the virus to persist and spread) is actually ruining the day for most everyone else

  6. This is spot on. I’m way past tired of having to make those same arguments. You know what the cost of the alleged freedom to not wearing a mask is? It’s the city changing its mind and saying yesterday my kid is unable to go to school in-person next month because cases spiked. We have the right to smoke, but not on planes or in restaurants. Our rights are not unlimited where they adversely impact others. Let’s just accept it so we can move on with our lives. This isn’t some plot to come take away your guns or whatever you hold dear.

  7. Good timing on this article. It seems that the President is finally starting to come around on wearing a mask.

    I wish we had done that back in March, when we shut everything down. We’re running out of time for schools, which is necessary for so many people to get back to work.

      • That was only because the science wasn’t entirely clear in March and there were almost no cases. This guidance was updated by scientists long before there was an outbreak and it helped states like my own, Rhode Island, almost elminate COVID like many European countries.

        Trump is over 3.5 months late and still hasn’t issued a nationwide mask mandate. Now, because he’s poisoned the minds of millions, almost everyone in the US isn’t going to have schools open, which is necessary to start the economy.

        Remember that Trump wanted to inject people with bleach and has silenced Fauci for political reasons rather than what’s best for the welfare of the United States.

  8. Well unlike car insurance i can’t breath after a period of time. I have copd so i get head aches and hard to breath. People are passing out and getting sick from continually breathing in the particles and dioxins your lungs have kicked out.

    • You’re an exception.
      Here in Oregon where Joe and I live you aren’t required to wear masks if you have such medical issues or you can wear a face shield.

    • Honestly with COPD bad enough that you can’t wear a mask for an hour while shopping, you should really stay out of enclosed public spaces. You’re the person that Covid 19 is deadly to. The rest of us need to wear masks so that your family members don’t get sick and take it home to you.

  9. Yeah wearing a mask is like having an insurance policy. While mask isn’t mandatory here in BC, more and more people are wearing it. I really wish Costco Canada would just put a mandatory mask rule for all of their warehouse. A few weeks when I went, there were tons of people. I’d say probably 60% of people weren’t wearing masks. What made matter worse was that people were complacent and did not keep a distance at all. I also saw many elderly folks (some with walkers!) wondering around in the store as if there’s no pandemic. I also saw a bunch very little kids in the store. Come on people, there’s still a pandemic! Stay home and stay out of stores if you can!

    • Wow, that’s not very safe. Many stores are requiring face masks now.
      Portlanders are more serious about masks now too. Most people I see walking around have a mask on.
      Hopefully, the situation will improve soon.

  10. Find it funny people believe those crappy mask help you from getting it or who made up 6 ft was the exact distance to b safe but you all keep being sheep I’ll stay the lion I am have fun life short n no e is guaranteed tommrow !!!

    • Countries that wore masks are doing so much better than the US. It works.
      So the reason you don’t wear a mask is that you don’t like to do what other people tell you?
      I just want to understand why.

  11. I can almost bet that those that refuse to wear a mask have never experienced double pneumonia. If they had they’d be going around like me: filtered mask, covered by a cloth mask that is washed regularly – including getting annual flu shots (I was an anti-flu shot person for decades – since I rarely got even a cold, why should I bother – was my motto) and a pneumonia shot. I hate wearing a mask as much as the next person – especially in this heat. But if you think you ‘can’t breathe’ with a mask – trust me, that’s child’s play compared to having pneumonia: I couldn’t walk 10 feet without needing to rest for at least a half hour to catch my breath; and that wasn’t even the worst of it!

  12. Thanks for writing about the mask issue. It’s such a simple ask and yet we have made it way too complicated in this country. What really frustrates me too is how people react to not wanting to wear a mask. If you don’t want to wear a mask, just don’t wear a mask (even though you really should). But there is no need to ridicule, or hurt people, or even kill them when someone asks you to wear a mask.

    We went on a road trip to some state parks at the end of June. One of the parks was in a very secluded town (population 400). We stayed in an Airbnb since there really weren’t hotels or restaurants. I went into a convenience store to get some water and was pleasantly surprised to see the clerk wear a mask. I had mine on but was thinking that in such a small town they wouldn’t wear masks. A few other customers came in without them. But I was at least glad the clerk was wearing one.

    Glad you had a good road trip and fortunately nothing serious happened with the deer!

  13. Great analogy! It’s such a minor inconvenience for a major payoff. Perhaps seatbelts also felt like a minor inconvenience at some point – it’s just automatic at this point that it would feel odd not to put a seatbelt on. My area, fortunately, has a public space mask mandate and at least when I go shopping everybody wears one.

    Also, as an attorney friend of mine wrote recently… “the gov’t mandating you to wear a mask is not the same as taxation without represenation, so, please, shut the &^% up.” 🙂

    • Your friend got it right. Wearing a mask isn’t a huge deal. It’s not a permanent rule. Once the pandemic is over, we can go back to normal. Hopefully, wearing masks when you’re sick will continue. It’s a good habit.

  14. Glad to hear that you guys are safe – that could have been one heckuva bad accident!

    I hate to even give non-maskers more attention – it just makes me sick how entitled and selfish some people have become. What a world.

    Enjoy your summer, Joe! Looking forward to hearing about more road trips!

  15. Great minds think alike! Today on our blog we’re all talking about our favorite face masks. I like the cup kinds with the bendable nose piece and cloth loops for ears. But many of our readers have different preferences and lots of suggestions for people who want to buy or make their own.

  16. Agree. Not sure I agree about the masks effectiveness but if it’s a requirement, just f*****g do it. I don’t get people. Have they started giving out fine in Oregon? Outside the USA there are fine of around $100 for not wearing a mask and it’s massively enforced.

    • No fines or enforcement of individuals violating the mask rule here in Oregon that I’m aware of. In fact our Governor said : ““I do not want the local police issuing tickets.”
      But I haven’t tracked all the news in the past 2-3 weeks on it. I think they’re trying to enforce at businesses that don’t obey. And if enough people don’t wear masks they might add fines or enforcement for individuals. All along it seems ot me that a lot of the rules have been less strict initially and if that doesn’t work they increase them but if it works enough we keep it less strict. Like for example Oregon never shut down construction or manufacturing and it actually worked OK so we kept them open. But we first nicely asked people to please stay off the beaches then people disobeyed the first sunny day and rushed to the beach so then they shut down the beaches.

  17. i must have gotten one of the 1st seatbelt tickets issued nationwide. ny was the 1st in 1984 and i was driving home at age 16 and got hit with a ticket. that’s alot of money when you’re making $30/week at a part time job!

  18. I still don’t get why some people think wearing mask hurt their freedom and ego! Look at places in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea… there cities are highly congested but they could keep their infection rate very low just simply wearing mask.

    Is wearing mask will hurt more than fighting for life in ICU?

    Human creativity and stupidity amazes me same way?

  19. When they were trying to get people to buckle their seatbelts, the slogan was “Click It or Ticket”. Now, we need “Mask It or Casket”

  20. Thank you Joe. Your voice is so important in this. It’s such a small thing to do for our society so we can get the rates down. Doctors are baffled as to why this became a political issue. Thank you again.

  21. We were at the beach a few weeks ago in the south. The great thing about these beaches is there is so much space. We were 100’s of feet from other people. We didn’t feel the need for the mask while on the beach.

    But then we went to the bar/outdoor restaurant to order take out. There were hundreds of people shoulder to shoulder listening to live music without a mask. I had my mask on, took my food, went to the rental and basically bathed in sanitizer.

    • Our trip was great too. We had plenty of space outdoor. The restaurants we visited were pretty good. The workers all wore masks. We got takeouts mostly. We also went at off-peak time so that helped too.

  22. I think you did a pretty good job with the finance connection!

    We relocated to Jacksonville FL early in the year and now find ourselves in the state with the worst of the pandemic. If you go out and about, you’d hardly know it though. Only exception is that stores, and even Walmart, have been enforcing masks to go indoors. But by and large, people seem to be going about their business – little or no masks.

    In contrast, a few weeks ago we drove back to NYC (when their caseload dropped but before they imposed the travel ban from Florida), and it was impressive to see most people, even outdoors, wearing masks. Even runners.

    And look at the difference today. Florida has the most cases anywhere, and New York has hardly any cases, and still being super cautious about further opening.

  23. Funny enough, I once hit a deer out in eastern Oregon once. But that’s a story for another day! Today it’s about masks.

    We live in a very individualistic society, for all the good and the bad it sometimes brings.

    Back in the 80’s, I remember when the States started enacting seatbelt laws. Lots of people didn’t buckle up, even though they were very aware of the statistics and dangers of not wearing a seatbelt.
    Why didn’t they do it? I distinctly remember a few arguments from that time period:
    1. “Oh, it’ll never happen to me I’m a good driver.” Right….
    2. “I don’t believe the government should be able to tell me what to do.” The pseudo libertarian argument.
    3. “Oh nobody else is around. We’re out in the country.”

    Funny thing is, I hear very similar arguments against mask wearing today. Non-mask people won’t be persuaded just like back in those days. Sorry to say.

    In the 80’s, people eventually got caught and fined for not wearing a seatbelt. Or, they got into a horrible accident and Darwin got the final word.

    I think before this pandemic is over it’ll come down to those two things again… fines or finality.

    • I mostly missed the seat belt debacle. But I think you’re probably right. People don’t care unless it effects them directly. So fine or getting sick or it hits their elders…

    • Yeah my dad was one of the people who fought against seat belts. I don’t know why really. He was even in denial about the safety impact. I remember him citing some bogus anecdote he’d heard (3rd hand probably ) about someone being killed by a seatbelt one time somewhere. Similarly, now there are people hearing and believing misinformation about masks. And thats on top of the basic ‘don’t tell me what to do’ stubborn resistance that many people have to any new rule they don’t like for whatever reason. And at the very lowest level people will simply find masks to be uncomfortable. People also just don’t understand, believe or feel the imminent threat of a virus killing them. Its unreal in peoples minds.

  24. Insofar as people not wearing facemasks, it’s the Dunning-Kruger effect that afflicts a lot of those not wearing masks.

    Here is a big part of the problem why people are not wearing facemasks:

    “More and more, people don’t care about expert views. That’s according to Tom Nichols, author of “The Death of Expertise,” who says Americans have become insufferable know-it-alls, locked in constant conflict and debate with others over topics they actually know almost nothing about. Nichols shares his humble opinion on how we got here.

    “Increasingly, however, laypeople don’t care about expert views. Instead, many Americans have become insufferable know-it-alls, locked in constant conflict with each other, while knowing almost nothing about the subject they are debating.”

    “How did this happen? How is it that people now not only doubt expert advice, but believe themselves to be as smart, or even smarter, than experienced professionals? Parents who refuse to vaccinate a child, for example, aren’t really questioning their doctors. They’re replacing their doctors. They have decided that attending the university of Google, as one anti-vaccine activist put it, is the same as going to medical school.”

    Read more at;
    The problem with thinking you know more than the experts.

    • VERY good point Ernie, Everyone who knows their’ right about something can prove themselves right by finding someone else who agrees with them on Google.
      ie. I can probably go on google and find the 1 in 99 doctors who doesn’t think that smoking is harmful has a blog with evidence that *proves* smoking is safe and the antismoking stuff is all lies!

      In addition to Google we have entire cable network channels running 24/7 that will reinforce your preconceived ideas about one or the other side of most issues and they keep pumping that out to get their ad dollars.

  25. Hi, I’ve been reading your blog for over a year but am only commenting for the first time now. I live in CA and I wanted to say thank you for writing about the face mask issue and voicing your opinion about freedom and responsibilities. The biggest thing many Americans don’t understand about the American version of “freedom” is that every freedom and right has limits, and that wearing a face mask isn’t about freedom or politics. I agree with your perspective and wanted to say thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you. Stay safe in CA. It sounds pretty bad in the LA area. Hopefully, the Bay Area can keep it down.
      Yes, we have responsibilities too. We’re not 10 years old. Sometimes, we need to do difficult things to help the communities.


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